Taiwan, The Lost Country 1


More than two-thirds of all the countries in the world have populations smaller than Taiwan’s, yet these countries are included in the community of nations, while Taiwan is treated as an outcast – barred from the United Nations, ignored by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, shunned by the United States, the European community and most other nations.

Is it our politics?

Taiwan is a representative democracy, with a constitution, an elected president and legislature, and an independent court system. Freedom House gives us the highest possible rating in the area of political rights. We rank slightly lower in the area of civil liberties. Overall, in its 2010 “Freedom in the World” Index, Freedom House ranks Taiwan ahead of more than 125 other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa and Turkey – way ahead of China, Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam.

The global fiction is that Taiwan belongs to China. But the fact is: the People’s Republic of China at no time in its history, or in the history of Taiwan, has exercised sovereignty over my country.

I would love to see the eventual merger of Taiwan and China on the right terms – a voluntary union, like a marriage, with a “pre-nup” giving both parties the right to walk away if it doesn’t work.

Until then, the world does a disservice to the people of Taiwan, and to the cause of freedom and self-determination, to ostracize us and pretend our country doesn’t exist.

And make no mistake: Much of the world is clearly in denial.

In the eyes of the United Nations, for example, we’re a non-entity. This same United Nations recognizes dozens of political regimes whose strong-arm leaders imprison or butcher their people, arrogantly violating the United Nations Charter.

The United Nations also recognizes political entities that are not countries, such as the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and countries that are smaller than most cities (such as Anguilla: pop. 11,430, and Nauru: pop. 10,065).

Despite our population of more than 23 million and an economy that ranks as the 19th largest in the world, the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in its most recent “Population and Vital Statistics Report” (last updated May 4, 2011) doesn’t even mention Taiwan. It’s as if we don’t exist.

The United Nations, of course, is notoriously wrongheaded on many issues, so this is no surprise. But the United Nations isn’t alone; other organizations also are in denial.

The International Monetary Fund, for example, provides no “country information” for Taiwan. It gives information on Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga and Tuvala, but not Taiwan. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank similarly ignore our existence.

Even the World Atlas (www.worldatlas.com), a supposedly impartial authority, lists 192 “Countries of the World.” Taiwan – which would rank 51st on the World Atlas list by population – is missing.

This deliberate snubbing of my country extends into the diplomatic arena as well. Though most countries, including China, are happy to trade with Taiwan, just 23 countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taipei.

The United States participates in this charade – though the CIA World Factbook acknowledges Taiwan and the United States maintains ‘people to people’ relations with my country, as mandated by an act of Congress: the Taiwan Relations Act.

This fiction has gone on long enough. It is time for the world to recognize our existence and accord Taiwan the same courtesies and respect it confers upon others.

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Winston Wong, a British-educated physicist, is a prominent Taiwanese entrepreneur and philanthropist.